On Golden Pond

Written by Ernest Thompson

Thurs 29th November - Sat 1st December & Tues 4th - Sat 8th December 1990

Directed by David Hemsley-Brown

A funny and warmly perceptive study of a spirited elderly couple facing their twilight years. Ethel and Norman Thayer return to their summer home on Golden Pond for their 44th year. When they are visited by their daughter and her family the problems of the generation gap, and the possibilities opened up by the bridging of that gap, are explored. A work of rare simplicity and beauty.

AuthorErnest Thompson

Richard Ernest Thompson (b 1949)

Writer, actor and director, Ernest Thompson was born in Vermont, USA. He attended the University of Maryland and The Catholic University of America, graduating cum laude from American University in 1971.

His first play 'On Golden Pond', was a great success and his second popular play was 'The West Side Waltz'. As an actor, he has appeared once on Broadway and in several TV roles. He wrote the screenplay for the feature film 'Sweet Hearts Dance' and then went on to direct '1969'. During the 1990s, Thompson wrote the television film 'Take Me Home Again' in 1994, in which he also appeared. In 2000, Thompson directed his 12 short plays, 'The Penis Responds', off-off-Broadway and in 2001, he directed his own TV version of On Golden Pond. His play 'White People Christmas' played at the Zephyr Theatre in Los Angeles, which he also directed.

PlayOn Golden Pond

The plot focuses on ageing couple Ethel and Norman Thayer, who spend each summer at their home on a lake called Golden Pond. During the year the story takes place, they are visited by daughter Chelsea with her fiancé and his son in tow. The play explores the often turbulent relationship the young woman shared with her father growing up, and the difficulties faced by a couple in the twilight years of a long marriage.

The first Broadway production was in 1979, and a Broadway revival took place in 2005. It has won many awards including several Drama Desk Awards and two Tony's (for the revivals). The play was famously adapted for the screen in 1981 for a film with Henry Fonda, Katharine Hepburn and Jane Fonda.

The Bench Production

On Golden Pond poster image

This play was staged at Havant Arts Centre, East Street Havant - Bench Theatre's home since 1977.


Norman Thayer JnrStuart Hartley
Ethel ThayerRuth Prior
Charlie MartinPeter Corrigan
Chelsea Thayer-WayneJane Hemsley-Brown
Billy Ray JnrShaun Haggan
Bill RayHoward Castle


Director David Hemsley-Brown
Stage Manager Vincent Adams
Lighting Design Jacquie Penrose
Lighting Operation Alan Jenkins
Props John Scadding, Janet Simpson
Set Design David Penrose
Set Construction David Hemsley-Brown
Front of House Jacquie Penrose

Director's Notes

Ernest Thompson's play on which the well-known film starring Henry Fonda and Katherine Hepburn was based, gives us a unique insight into family life. By tracing the event in the lives of one family over a few months, the themes of memory continuity and the ageing process are explored with great humour and perception. By dealing with the interactions of a small group of people the play illustrates the view that each life forms part of a larger and continuing pattern, in which each individual life should be enjoyed to the full and when the time comes, relinquished with dignity.

David Hemsley-Brown


The NewsAmanda Harlow

Sluggish, but never slushy

'On Golden Pond' is mainly known as the film vehicle for another chapter in the Fonda family fortunes which saw Jane and her old man reunite in a screenplay about a father and daughter reuniting. But the play which preceded the film is very different, warm and humorous - and not so sentimental which is a great relief. Old people and family interaction does not need to be slushy. The Bench Theatre have got a tidy production here, crammed in to the tiny studio space of the arts centre, with the gentle bickering of an American couple as the centrepiece for the action.

Norman and Ethel have come to their summer home on the shores of a lake in Maine to pick berries, play Monopoly and watch the wildlife. The summer is changed when their daughter Chelsea arrives with her new man and his son. It is a slowly paced, wordy play which demands that everyone knows their lines perfectly because one false pause and the natural flow of the dialogue slips. Bench so it very well, bringing out the funnies and the serious lines equally, with some particularly good timing in the scenes between Ethel, Norman and the mailman Charlie and that painfully familiar family scene between father and prospective son-in-law.

Sometimes the pace gets a little too sluggish and Stuart Hartley's otherwise strong Norman slips from an American accent into Dorset yokel, but overall, it was a strong start to a fortnight's run with plenty of genuine laughs and feeling. The only part of the play which seems disjointed surprisingly is Chelsea's outburst about her inability to communicate with Pop. Since we have seen nothing of their relationship up to this point I wonder whether Bench have either cut some dialogue or the play is very weak here. It just doesn't add up.'On Golden Pond' makes a good evening out and is being performed at the Old Town Hall, Havant tonight and tomorrow, Tuesday through to next Saturday at 7.30 p.m.

Credit, newspaper name and date

Production Photographs